2019 delivered a dream come true for Russ Saputo of Carolina Eagle Distributing. A 20-year veteran of the beer business and a proud graduate of East Carolina University, Russ has always wanted to be a beer distributor in his college town of Greenville, NC. In March 2019, Carolina Eagle purchased Anheuser-Busch distribution rights to a five-county region of Eastern N.C., including Pitt County—–the home of East Carolina University.
Now serving an 11-county region of Eastern N.C., Carolina Eagle sells more than 3 million cases of Anheuser-Busch products annually. This is a fourth-generation beer distribution business which began just after the end of Prohibition and has its roots in Michigan and upstate New York. The Saputo family bought Carolina Eagle in 1995 and the company now employs 100 persons with temperature-controlled buildings in Rocky Mount and Greenville. The combined warehouse space covers 100 thousand square feet with a fleet of 60 vehicles for sales, delivery and merchandising.
After spending his first six years after college in a variety of roles with Anheuser-Busch, Russ Saputo joined his father Joe in the ownership and management of Carolina Eagle. The Rocky Mount and Greenville markets, while in close proximity, provide different challenges and opportunities.
“Rocky Mount has received a big economic boost with a new warehouse for the CSX company and the relocation of the state headquarters for the Department of Motor Vehicles”, says Russ. “Greenville is a high-energy community with the university and a wide range of on-premise retail locations. There’s a big demand for craft beer products which we provide with products such as Goose Island, Blue Point, Wicked Weed, Catawba and Lone Rider, and others.”
The Saputo leadership philosophy is simple but straight-forward.
“We want to lead by example”, says Russ. “My job is to try as hard as I can to let our workers know that I would do anything they do. I don’t have a problem running delivery routes if that’s what it takes to deliver quality service to the retailers in our 11-county area.”